There are a few things we know for certain about Lisa Donovan: she’s a fierce advocate for women’s rights, she can wax poetic over the nuances of Mexican corn varietals, and she knows how to make a mean buttermilk chess pie. Lisa is one of the top pastry chefs in the South, kneading and baking the night’s best courses at some of Nashvilles hottest restaurants. Lisa also has a deep and personal connection with Mexican cooking, thanks to the Indigenous-Mexican roots of her mother’s family. Lisa was raised on her grandmother’s simple cooking: “I think back to simplicity of the kitchen I grew up in—always pots of beans and very simple tortillas my grandmother would make on the skillet.”
Lisa’s culinary approach is a blended melange of classic French training as a pastry chef, quintessential Southern cookery from her father’s Appalachian roots, and traditional Mexican simplicity. After 15 years in the restaurant industry, Lisa recently left to explore her other passion: writing. Much of her early writing was about rediscovering and honoring the Mexican women in her family, and in 2018, she won a James Beard Award for her Food & Wine article “Dear Women: Own Your Stories.” Her new memoir, Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger, delves into her upbringing and how her grandmother’s Mexican-Zuni heritage has influenced every facet of her life, from cooking to parenting.
The way I cook at home is something I learned from the women in my family: use what you have and think very creatively. You can make a beautiful and generous meal with dried pinto beans and a little bit of corn meal. And some hot sauce on the table, of course.
I’m so excited to show people the real warmth of Oaxaca, the generosity of the people, and how easily being in a place like that can reconnect you to the true fundamentals of food and generosity.